Farm tale trounces basketball snoozer
SEMI-PRO ★★ Will Ferrell dons shorts tighter than Little Richard’s skin for his turn as a ’70s-era basketball player who dreams of seeing his American Basketball Association team join the NBA. Semi-Pro has some decent moments and some good chemistry that comes to the fore with the help of Andre Benjamin and the introduction of Woody Harrelson’s character, Monix — a guy who actually played in the NBA — but for the most part, this Scot Armstrong script feels so tired, it borders on depressing. DVD features include from the cutting room, deleted scenes, alternate scenes, Tropics Weekly, The Story Behind the One Hit Wonder, Four Days in Flint, Love Me Sexy and more. THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN ★★★ 1/2
A surprising little gem of a movie, this documentary from Taggart Siegel explores the life and times of a man named Farmer John (a.k.a. John Peterson) — a man from a simple farming background who became an accidental symbol of the nascent organics movement. When we first meet John, he seems like the eccentric hippie his friends and neighbours believed him to be back in the 1970s — mostly as a result of his clothing choices. Over the course of the movie, we get to know John, but we also get to know what happened to the American farmer over the last 50 years, and that’s really the most powerful part of this lowbudget documentary. DVD features include Bitter Harvest documentary, deleted scenes and more. AMERICAN CRUDE ★ 1/2
An extremely attractive cast — and Rob Schneider — are given a paper thin plot and tasked with an impossible assignment: to fold the flimsy piece into something that resembles entertainment. Ron Livingston plays a man who has everything and loses it all after a night of indiscretion. From that point on, all we’re left to do is wait for everything that went wrong — and hope it feels original. It doesn’t. The parade of transsexuals, sexual predators, lusty minors and selfish women follows, ensuring every misstep feels long, tedious and undeniably unfunny. One can’t blame the talented cast that includes Michael Clarke Duncan and Jennifer Esposito for such painful moments — only the director-writer Craig Sheffer, who dreamed up this feast of offensive, but at least got the title right. DVD features include deleted scenes. THE PUNISHER SPECIAL EDITION ★★★ 1/2
Thomas Jane takes a twodimensional comic book character and turns him into one of the more intriguing Marvel Comic movie heroes thanks to a surprisingly emotional back story about the hero’s origins in family tragedy. With enough emotional collateral to keep the wheels turning, and enough gritty action to give the narrative traction, this Jonathan Hensleigh film turns into a pretty solid thriller with enough surprises to overcome the comic book clichés. Even John Travolta turns in a mean performance as a mob boss. DVD features on this special edition include animated introduction, making of the extended cut, comic book cover gallery and more. THE BRONX IS BURNING ★★ 1/2
With Oliver Platt playing George Steinbrenner opposite John Turturro’s Billy Martin, it’s hard to imagine how this eight-part miniseries managed to go so wrong, but it does — despite the incredible actors, and despite depicting one of the most romantically appealing eras of New York history: The ugly 1970s, when the Big Apple was all rotten. Ideally, this story is supposed to be an inspiring tale about how “America’s game” rallied the poor masses. Sadly, the film misses the mark and slows to a tedium due to the lacklustre script. And when a movie about the New York Yankees doesn’t have conflict, you know there’s something desperately wrong. DVD features include outtakes, deleted scenes, Stories of ’77 featurettes, extended interviews with Reggie Jackson, George Steinbrenner, complete stats for 1977 World Series and more. VINCE VAUGHN’S WILD WEST SHOW ★★
Calling all mediocre comics: Apparently, you can find work on the professional circuit, as long as you’re best friends with Vince Vaughn. Though talked up at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, this reel has relatively few laughs as it features four unknown comics (who are also buds with the comic actor) touring their shtick across the U.S. The comedians are Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst and Sebastian Maniscalco. They are all clearly enthusiastic, but it takes more than a lot of stage energy and crude words to make people laugh — well, most people. DVD features include commentary track, bonus material, the tour, spring break and more. MEET THE SPARTANS ★
There’s no doubt Gerard Butler’s six pack is worthy of some gentle ribbing, but this moronic send-up of 300 does little to satirize the blockbuster about a small Greek army. Instead, it spends more time throwing bad jokes at reality TV and no-talent stars. The only bright sides are Kevin Sorbo, who sends up his former Herculean self, and Carmen Electra, who clearly has no problem making fun of her own assets. DVD features include audio commentary, know your Spartans trivia game, gag reel, Prepare for Thrusting and more.